RIVERSIDE (CBS) — R&B singer Etta James’ losing battle with leukemia and other ailments appears to be nearing an end, according to an in-home physician caring for the artist, whose $1 million estate is at the center of a legal battle between family members.
During a hearing Thursday on her probate case, the 73-year-old’s doctor, Elaine James — who is not related to the bedridden singer — revealed that her patient’s health was in rapid decline and that she was unable to speak beyond simple yes and no acknowledgments.
The doctor asked that fans and friends pray for the singer.
The entertainer’s son, Donto James has requested that Elaine James be terminated as his mother’s primary caregiver, questioning the doctor’s competence and equating her medical decisions to those of Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s live-in physician who recently was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison in connection with the pop star’s death.
Etta was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, has dementia, a kidney deficiency and has exhibited symptoms of organic brain syndrome, though she’s able to recognize members of her family, according to published reports.
She was hospitalized in May of this year with to be treated for infections.
Donto and Etta’s husband of 42 years, Artis Mills, are waging a legal tug-of-war for control over the singer’s savings accounts. Mills is not Donto James’ father.
Mills filed suit last year seeking to have the accounts declared community property, removing any barriers he otherwise would face in using the funds. Donto James is challenging the action on the grounds that his mother gave him power-of-attorney to govern her affairs in the event she became incapacitated.
Mills has stated he needs money to cover his wife’s medical expenses, as well as household staff and business obligations. Donto James has insisted that is his role.
In March, a court-appointed receiver assessed Etta James’ in-home care and determined there was no validity to allegations of sub-par treatment.
Elaine James is receiving $30,000 a month for her round-the-clock care of the ailing singer, which includes coordinating with medical specialists, managing nurses and sometimes shopping for the woman, according to recent reports.
Another hearing on the case is scheduled for Monday.
Born Jamesetta Hawkins, Etta James hit her peak in the 1960s with such hits as “At Last,” “Tell Mama” and “Losers Weepers.” A Los Angeles native, she relocated to Riverside about 20 years ago.
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